Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit Friday against a wind-energy company based in Excelsior alleging that it bilked farmers around Minnesota out of hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece utilizing federal stimulus money aimed at helping the country during the recession.
The lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court, alleges that Renewable Energy SD and its owner, Shawn Dooling, 46, of Shorewood, promised state-of-the-art wind turbines that would last up to 25 years and qualify for federal grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Farmers were told that the windmills would produce excess energy that could be sold to the power grid, and that they would pay for themselves in five to 10 years, the suit says. Company sales representatives offered a “turn-key” system, promising to quickly obtain the necessary permits, construct the towers and maintain the windmills.
The suit says the company broke its promises over and over. It failed to deliver the turbines on time, if at all. Many of the turbines failed to work. When the farmers complained, the company refused to refund their money, and pressured them to buy upgraded equipment, the suit says. In some cases, the more expensive replacements also failed.
The turbines, in some cases, failed to qualify for federal grants, which pays only for new, functional equipment that has to last at least five years. The suit alleges that some of the turbines sold by Renewable Energy SD were either used or made of recycled parts.
Dooling, who formerly sold security systems in Minnesota and Missouri, has been sued numerous times both over his business practices and his alleged failure to pay his personal debts. Meantime, he lived in expensive homes drove luxury automobiles. Swanson’s suit says he spent more than $1 million in the past several years on two Bentleys, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and two Audis.
Dooling could not be reached immediately for comment.
Swanson filed suit seeking to stop Dooling’s sales of windmills in Minnesota while her staff continues investigating. The matter also will be referred to criminal authorities for investigation.
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